When good, useful, relevant and local advertising is abandoned, you’re bound to be left with only the trash in your feed. And when a bunch of regulars stop advertising on Google, then there is an opportunity to be found while everyone else is battening down the hatches.

Everything is not ok. But you can adjust.

How easily can you adjust?

I’m not going to pretend that everything is ok. It’s not. I am not going to pretend that I can understand the pain your business is going through. I can’t. I can only understand the current circumstances for business from my own perspective. And I am hurting right now. Hurting for the hit to my own income. Hurting at the sight of clients going out of business and friends being out of work. Like all crises, however, there are some businesses that are going to not only come out of this ok, but, will thrive. For some it’s because of the business they’re in being a necessity at times like these. For others, it will be because they used this time to adjust, make changes, learn new skills, and take advantage of the holes left open by others who have moved on.

Facebook Ads are getting less crowded, and easier to get reach

Quote from Dante St James on Facebook Ads observations in Darwin during COVID-19

With this in mind, one of the most noticeable changes I’ve seen is the mass departure of local businesses from the Facebook ads platform. This vacating of the platform by many smaller businesses in areas like the trades, retail, alternative food supply and events has meant that my feed, particularly, has been left for the vultures that seek low ad pricing and gullible minds. The lotion and potion network marketers, essential oil peddlers, life coaches and self-proclaimed business growth experts are flooding my feed with their rubbish. Promising everything from health and vitality through to the “secrets to positive cashflow” these charlatans are showing up in the gap left by local events, local air con contractors and local marketing agencies.

However, unlike the United States, Australia is not in an election year. The Northern Territory, where I am, is, though. Political advertising in the US has taken around 1-2% of the available ad space on Facebook and has, by its big spending, driven up the cost of advertising on Facebook & Instagram. In Australia, we haven’t seen this. Though there has a big increase in traditional advertising on TV and radio by various government’s pushing out their health warning and economic stimulus information, it, by and large, hasn’t affected online advertising quite as much, as the big platforms like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube are publishing their own initiatives to educate those on the platforms to help slow infection rates. Again, though, this hasn’t been at the expense of the Facebook Ads platform. Which means that there is an opportunity in regional Australia, for a forward-thinking business, to take advantage of the gap now appearing in local feeds to do one very simple thing.

Start advertising at a small budget of no more than around $5 a day to reach enough of an audience in your area to let them know that you’re either still open, still available or offering additional services. $5 a day is roughly $150 a month. At a time when we’re all cutting back, that might feel like a lot. But the cheapest TV advertising you’ll find is over $600 a month. The cheapest radio advertising you’ll find is about the same. This is a time to get more bang for your buck. A month ago, $150 was buying us almost half the reach that we were getting in this past week on Facebook in regional areas.

Naturally, don’t be cocky or insensitive about what you’re advertising. This isn’t the time to be advertising your inflated prices on essentials or trying to manipulate people in to sales funnels to spend thousands on things they don’t need and are of dubious value to them. Recognise the times, provide value and assistance where you can, and be sensitive to people’s needs right now – both business and human.

Google Ads reach is rising, and the cost is falling

Quote from Dante St James on Google Ads observations in Darwin during COVID-19

The next observation I’ve made is on Google. In the case of one air conditioning client this past two weeks, we got almost 5 times the results that we got the same client just over a year ago, but with half the spend we had a year ago. This wasn’t anything to do with our own magic, knowledge or skill. This was all because of the dramatic drop in the number of businesses advertising in the market this particular business was in.

As little as 3 months ago, there were 12 different competitors advertising on the same keywords for air conditioning installation, repair and servicing in the same specific regional Australian market our client has just advertised in. Today, there are just 6. That’s half the competition gone in one financial quarter. In the peak season for air conditioner installation and servicing in that market, the competition on Google halved, allowing our very small client to carve out enough sales to make his workload full for the next 2 months. Again, not through any of our efforts aside from our ability to convince a sole trader that there was an opportunity for him to do very well in a time when others were abandoning the market.

This pattern has been repeated in that same market with Accountants, who always baulk at advertising, where 27 businesses 3 months ago have reduced to just 3 who are still advertising on Google. And with real estate agents who had over 40 of them vying for ad positions on Google, now reduced to none at all. When searching for real estate agents in that market just now, there were literally no paid results whatsoever.

How far will you go for the health of your business?

A warning for those who want to cut their marketing at this time

These are rough times. Everything is uncertain. But I can guarantee that those who are slow to market, or even cancel their marketing altogether, will suffer worse than those who sensibly consolidate their marketing and maintain a presence on the media that people are present on, whether that’s Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, local television or local radio. It can be tempting to drop your marketing at a time like this. However, if one of my clients is in your market, and a competitor to you, I will be pointing out that you have dropped the ball, and that it’s time for them to step into the gap you’ve created. Not because I’m mean, but because I’m watching out for every opportunity for my clients to do well in a very strange time. You should be doing the same for your business.

Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, one of just 7 accredited Community Trainers by Facebook in Australia, an accredited digital advisor for the Australian Government’s ASBAS Digital Solutions program for small business and a big fan of eating in.